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California-based outdoor brand Patagonia stakes its roots in rock-climbing—and an undying commitment to the environment. The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard, who began climbing in 1953 at age 14: He was a member of the Southern California Falconry Club, and first learned to rappel down cliffs to falcon nests.

[Above: Canadian Rockies. Photo by Honza Franta.]

A few years later, unsatisfied with single-use, soft-iron climbing pitons during multi-day ascents in Yosemite, Chouinard decided to make his own reusable hardware. He picked up a forge, anvil, tongs and hammers at a junkyard, and taught himself how to blacksmith.

[Above: Photo by Marko Prezelj from the book Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography.]

After spending several years living on slender means, traveling between Yosemite, Wyoming, Canada and the Alps in search of adventure (and supporting himself by selling pitons for $1.50 each out of the back of his car along the way), the demand for Chouinard’s gear surpassed his DIY production process—so he set up shop in 1965 with Tom Frost, a climber-slash-aeronautical engineer.

[Above: Mike Epstein from page 25 of the 1988 Chouinard Backcountry Catalog.]

By 1970, Chouinard Equipment was the largest supplier of climbing hardware in the US—but the duo also realized the toll that pitons (which had to be repeatedly hammered in and out of rock walls) took on once-pristine rock walls. They phased out the piton business completely, focusing instead on aluminum chocks that could be wedged by hand rather than hammered into cracks. It was a risky business move that displayed a deeper commitment to the environment than to financial success. Chouinard even opened its 1972 catalog with a 14-page essay on ‘clean climbing.’

[Above: Photo by Barbara Rowell from the book Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography.]

A quote from Chouinard Equipment’s October 1974 catalog on clean climbing:
“No longer can we assume the Earth’s resources are limitless; that there are ranges of unclimbed peaks extending endlessly beyond the horizon. Mountains are finite, and despite their massive appearance, they are fragile.” Read the rest here.

[Above: Page 95 from the Patagonia Spring 1988 Catalog.]

The company began selling and later producing clothing around 1972. It began when Chouinard brought back a regulation rugby shirt from a climbing trip to Scotland. Built sturdy to stand up to abuse (on the mountain as well as on the field) and with a collar that protected from hardware slings chafing the neck, the shirts flew off shelves when Chouinard tried stocking them stateside. The name ‘Patagonia’ was adopted for the quickly growing clothing line, so as not to dilute Chouinard Equipment’s reputation as a tool company.

[Above: The cover of the 1988 Chouinard Backcountry Catalog.]

Patagonia was still in its infancy when the company began devoting considerable time and money to environmental efforts in the early ’70s. Over the years, they’ve turned their attention to cleaning up the Ventura River, de-urbanizing Yosemite Valley, and have used only organic cotton since 1996.

[Above: Company founder Yvon Chouinard kicking back and relaxing in the Chouinard Mountain Lounger in the 1987 Chouinard Backcountry Catalog. Photo by Rick Ridgeway.]

Watch the video below to learn about Patagonia’s latest environmental campaign, Our Common Waters—and visit Patagonia.com for further exploration.

[Above: Snow camping on Mt. Hood. Photo by Richard Hallman.]

 

SHOP: PATAGONIA | ALL SNOW SHOP

 
 

[Photos courtesy of Patagonia's official Tumblr page. Information source: Patagonia Company History.]

With the launch of our new Snow Shop, we’ve been investigating the louder side of snow sports lately—from the innovation of ’80s extreme skier Scot Schmidt to the bravado of gold-medal boarder Shaun White.

This week, we chose to take a more cerebral approach by highlighting Vancouver, Canada, outdoor brand Arc’teryx. In fitting with the lofty allegory behind the brand’s prehistoric namesake (Archaeopteryx lithographica, the first reptile to develop feathers for flight, “freeing itself from the constraints of the horizontal world”), Arc’teryx’s latest video series, A Skier’s Journey, uses obscure ski destinations as a context in which to explore nature, culture, and the human condition. The end result is a thought-provoking, heartwarming, visually incapacitating treatise on what it means to play in the snow.

Watch the bite-size trailer version above—and if you’re ready to settle in, heat up some cocoa and get comfortable for the full episodes below. Once you’re done, learn more about Arc’teryx’s technical achievements, charitable efforts…and get inspired (while sweating bullets) watching three guys who are “climbers first, disabled second.”

 

SHOP: ARC’TERYX | ALL SNOW SHOP
 
 

[Videos courtesy of Arc'teryx and Gore-Tex. Individuals featured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

If you haven’t geared up for snowboarding season yet, head over to our Snow Shop—and start jotting down favorites for your holiday wish list.

A couple weeks ago, we took a look at original extreme skier Scot Schmidt. Today, let’s check out two of Burton’s top boarders: living legend Terje Haakonsen (known for his fluid style in the most unforgiving terrain) and young gun Shaun White (whose historic perfect-100 score from the 2012 X Games is documented below).


A dominant boarder of the early ’90s as well as today, Terje Haakonsen, accompanied by up-and-comer John Jackson, waxes philosophic on the art of slicing up a mountain.
(Find the Burton movie Thirteen on iTunes.)


More Haakonsen, including some pulse-quickening first-person footage.
(Find the Burton movie Standing Sideways on iTunes.)


Shaun White at Northstar-at-Tahoe, in California. (Shop items from Burton’s White Collection.)


Shaun White five-peats and scores the first-ever 100.00 in SuperPipe at the 2012 Winter X Games.

 

SHOP: BURTON | ALL SNOW SHOP

 
 

[Videos courtesy of Burton Snowboards and X Games. Individuals featured do not endorse Nordstrom.]

Excited to hit the slopes this ski and snowboard season? Look no further: From jackets and hats to gloves and boots, our new Snow Shop has everything you need—including mind-blowing winter inspiration via the world’s preeminent outdoor brands. Check out Scot Schmidt—godfather of extreme skiing, and the sport’s first-ever endorsed athlete after The North Face got a hold of him in 1983—in the video above, as well as the vintage ski pics below.


L: Photo by Gary Brettnacher, 1993 | R: Photo by Scott Markewitz, 1990


Photo by Hank de Vre, 1985


Schmidt (L) with fellow freestyle skier Glen Plake (sans-mohawk)
in a still from Greg Stump’s 1988 ski film The Blizzard of AAHHH’s.

 

SHOP: THE NORTH FACE | ALL SNOW SHOP

 

[Video courtesy of The North Face. First three photos courtesy of Powder Magazine; fourth photo via Skinet/Warren Miller Entertainment, courtesy of Greg Stump Productions. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]